August 23, 2017

Season Preview 2014-2015 : 1. FSV Mainz 05

Nicknames: Die Nullfünfer (the O-Fives), Karnevalsverein (Carnival club)

Founded: March 16, 1905

Club colors: Red and white

Primary Rivals: Eintracht Frankfurt, 1. FC Kaiserslautern

Fan Friendship: Borussia Mönchengladbach

Honours:

  • German Amateur Championship  (1): 1981-82

Stadium: Coface Arena (capacity: 34,034) (opened: 2011)

2013-14 Finishes:

  • Bundesliga: 7th

  • DFB Pokal: Second Round (defeated by 1. FC Köln, 0-1)

Top Goal Scorer: Shinji Okazaki (15 goals)

2013-14 Season Summary

Club Reputation

It’s easy to see the connection between Borussia Dortmund and the quite possibly most humorous coach of all time, Jügen Klopp, but many seem to forget that it all started at Mainz for the charismatic two-time Bundesliga champion. Including a three-year span in the top-flight with the carnival side, Kloppo, as he is called by many, spent seven years as the club manager after he called it a day on his playing career, which saw him wearing the red-and-white shirt for over a decade in lower divisions. Just like when they hired Klopp, Mainz once again went for the inexperienced Tomas Tuchel to replace Jørn Andersen at the start of the 2009-10 season, despite that the Norwegian had just secured the club’s second promotion to the Bundesliga. However, what follows is pure magic. Tuchel made a name for himself and became one of the most sought-after coaches in Europe, as his team punched above their weight for years – the highlight being the 2010-11 season in which the team took the rest of the league by surprise with a perfect record from the first seven matches, followed by the club’s move into the high-tech stadium Coface Arena the following season. 

Reality

Finally, the inevitable happened, with Thomas Tuchel resigning from his position to take the high road in his career, although not until next year, as Mainz refused to release him from his contract, which will expire at the end of the upcoming season. Also of similar age to Tuchel, incoming coach Kasper Hjulmand has experience under his belt thanks to his time at his home country, Denmark managing Lyngby and FC Nordsjælland. 

Philosophy

It’s hard to predict how the 05ers are going to line up, considering it will be their first season without the influential Thomas Tuchel at the helm. Lewis Holtby, Christian Fuchs, Sami Allagui, Ádám Szalai, André Schürrle, Jan Kirchoff and more recently Nicolai Müller and Eric-Maxim Choupo-Moting are among the club’s best players who have gone onto better things in the last few years, but there were always someone around the corner to replicate the form of the departed players, such as Japanese international Shinji Okazaki and Johannes Geis, both of whom were excellent last season. Under Thomas Tuchel, Mainz were the unpredictable team in the whole Bundesliga, as no player can take a starting role for granted, and they were always tactically flexible in finding ways to come up with a plan against different opponents.

Plan B

As mentioned, the league’s best super-sub Eric-Maxim Chuopo Moting (Schalke) and Nicolai Müller (Hamburg), are the latest names to depart from Coface Arena, and this time around, Hjulmand is the one who’s responsible to fill the void. To the names of first-team players leaving, add the ever-present Zdeněk Pospěch to the list, which in contrast with the quiet summer they’re having in the transfer market, we shouldn’t be surprised if all the burden is left to Koo Ja-cheol and Shinji Okazaki to deliver the goods up front.

Strengths and Weaknesses

The Bundesliga has became a familiar league for Far-Eastern players down the years, with Shinji Kagawa’s spectacular debut season at Dortmund playing a vital role to bring in an ever-growing number of players signed from clubs in Japan and South Korea. It was not long before Kagawa’s goal-scoring record was beaten after his transfer to Manchester United, as Okazaki scored a remarkable fifteen goals last term, a record tally for an Asian player in the Bundesliga. With his vast experience in German football, the former VfB Stuttgart forward hopes to build on his productive season in the Bundesliga. Koo Ja-cheol will be the other player in the spotlight, as he quickly hit the ground running after his transfer from Wolfsburg in January, despite not having the best of World Cups in Brazil. On the other, Costa Rican full-back Junior Diaz did enjoy a great tournament to help his country to a surprising quarter-final appearance, and he is expected to shine in his return to Germany.

You would not find many coaches with such pressure before they even make their league debut, but Hjulmand faces this situation after his side was knocked out of both the Europa League and DFB-Pokal at the first hurdle. Mainz failed to get past the preliminary round of the European competition for the third time in their history, as they crashed out to Greek side Asteras Tripoli 3-2 on aggregate. If it wasn’t already a bad start for the Danish coach, they were also sent packing from the DFB Pokal after a ten-goal thriller against 3. Liga table-toppers Chemnitzer FC , eventually losing in a penalty shootout. Although this means that they will now only focus on the league action, the early signs are far from promising for the post-Tuchel era at Mainz. Apart from the signings of Chilean international Gonzalo Jara and Serbian striker Filip Đuričić from Nottingham Forest and Benfica respectively, there are no signs of adding quality to the squad even though they were competing on three fronts before the cup exits. With Tuchel no longer around to do what he did best for years, many believe a relegation fight will take place at Coface Arena this season.

Takeaway from 2013-14

It was more than a successful season even by Mainz’s standards, as they salvaged a place in the preliminary round of the Europa League for the second time under Thomas Tuchel’s guidance, a remarkable feat for such a small-budget club. Youngster Stefan Bell paid his manager’s trust with great performances at the back alongside club captain Nikolče Noveski, and Lorius Karius finally took over from veterans Christian Wetklo and Hans Müller in goal. Niki Zimiling had a great start to his M05 career alongside summer signing and highly-rated midfielder Johannes Geis in the heart of the midfield, and they will also be expecting to orchestrate the scenes in the new season. Yunus Mallı only showed glimpses of his talent since coming through Borussia Mönchengladbach’s youth ranks, and is still expected to bring his best in the coming season. The same can be said about long-serving Colombian midfielder Elkin Soto, who saw limited playing time due to inconsistency and injury problems. Nicolai Müller, Koo and Okazaki proved unplayable at times in front last season, with Chuopo-Moting always providing further threats coming off the bench, but with only two of them staying on at the club over the summer, Mainz will be counting on the likes of Sebastian Polter to raise their level of performance if they have to replicate such formidable results.

Trivia

Mainz are the fifth best Bundesliga team in points tally during Thomas Tuchel’s tenure at the club. Only the big four – Bayern Munich, Borussia Dortmund, Bayer Leverkusen and Schalke 04 – collected more points during the same period.

Verdict

I’m going to hit the panic button, and predict Mainz will get relegated at the end of the season (or survive the drop at the eleventh hour, if we can cut them some slack). Of course if there is one thing we have come to terms in recent Bundesliga seasons, and that is the fact that the league is highly unpredictable. Perhaps that gives me the edge to through the seventh-placed side right down to the bottom of the table in just a season, but one just cannot underestimate the importance of Thomas Tuchel for the carnival side.

The Boss

Kasper Hjulmand, 42, has no previous experience in German football. His managerial career started in 2006 with Danish side Lyngby BK before moving to FC Nordsjælland two years later and he stayed there for six seasons, three of which as an assistant manager, winning the league title for the first time in the club history in 2012. Although the standard of football in Denmark is a long way away from that of the Bundesliga, we shouldn’t forget his predecessors had even less first-class managerial football experience than him. Despite claiming victory in his competitive debut in the first-leg of the Europa League tie against Asteras, the subsequent late defeat in Greece as well as the stunning Pokal exit have exerted the pressure on the manager even before a ball has been kicked in the league.

Odds to win league: 500/1 (source: Paddy Power)

60-second dossier:

  • Number of Matches won by 2 or more goals: 8

  • Number of Matches won by 1 goal: 8

  • Number of Matches drawn: 5

  • Number of Matches lost by 1 goal: 2

  • Number of Matches lost by 2 or more goals: 11

  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in loss: 3

  • Number of matches in which a lead was blown, resulting in draw: 0

  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn a draw: 3

  • Number of matches in which a deficit was overcome to earn victory: 3

Five-Year Record: 9, 5, 13, 13, 7

Q & A with a club fan: @cheekybackheel

Keep an eye out for . . .”

Mainz’s Asian representatives – Shinji Okazaki, Park Joo-ho, and newcomer Koo Ja-cheol. If Okazaki and Koo build an understanding up front, they could be very dangerous.

“Terrace favorite . . .”

Okazaki gets a lot of love from the Mainz terrace, understandable given his 15 goals last season. Of course, Mainz stalwart Nikolče Noveski has a special place in our hearts. Loyalty is admirable in this day and age!

“Player you’d happily drive to another club . . .”

I can’t say I’d want to get rid of any of our players. We’re already a selling club, we have to hold onto everyone we can!

“Advice you’d give your manager . . .”

I’d tell Hjulmand to pay attention to Mainz’s youth ranks. You never know when the next André Schürrle is going to come through.

“Opposition player you secretly admire . . .”

It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the German national team (world champions!!), and of them Bastian Schweinsteiger is my favorite. His indomitable spirit and incredible eye for the game are so impressive. Of course I don’t care for his Bayern shirt very much…

“Opposition player you despise. . .”

I can’t stand Arjen Robben! (On the pitch, at least.)

“Where will you finish?”

Mainz faces a formidable task this year with a new coach and many key players departing, so I’m leery of predicting our fortunes. I would be delighted with a single digit finish. I’ll predict 9th place.

“What do you think of your new coach Kasper Hjulmand?”

I confess I am not yet familiar with Hjulmand, but I trust our manager Christian Heidel’s instincts, so I am very excited to see what Hjulmand does with this squad (and hopefully a couple more signings). Tuchel’s shoes are very difficult to fill, but it seems like Hjulmand has a similar philosophy of quick, hard-pressing football, with a focus on new talent, so hopefully he will fit right in.

“What do you make of Mainz’s reluctance to relieve Thomas Tuchel from his contract at the club?”

The whole Tuchel situation is quite odd, and I don’t like to speculate when I can’t possibly know what happened. Of course Mainz didn’t want to let him go, especially after such a brilliant season, but I assume Tuchel had his reasons, and I wish him the best of luck.

Fixture list:

August

  • 24 SC Paderborn (A)

  • 31 Hannover 96 (H)

September

  • 13 Hertha BSC (A)

  • 21 Borussia Dortmund (H)

  • 23 Eintracht Frankfurt (A)

  • 26 TSG Hoffenheim (H)

October

  • 04 Borussia Mönchengladbach (A)

  • 18 FC Augsburg (H)

  • 25 VFL Wolfsburg (A)

November

  • 01 Werder Bremen (H)

  • 08 Bayer Leverkusen (A)

  • 22 SC Freiburg (H)

  • 29 FC Schalke 04 (A)

December

  • 06 Hamburger SV (A)

  • 13 VfB Stuttgart (H)

  • 16 1. FC Köln (A)

  • 20 Bayern Munich (H)

January

  • 31 SC Paderborn (H)

February

  • 03 Hannover 96 (A)

  • 07 Hertha BSC (H)

  • 14 Borussia Dortmund (A)

  • 22 Eintracht Frankfurt (H)

  • 28 TSG Hoffemheim (A)

March

  • 07 Borussia Mönchengladbach (H)

  • 14 FC Augsburg (A)

  • 21 VFL Wolfsburg (H)

April

  • 04 Werder Bremen (A)

  • 11 Bayer Leverkusen (H)

  • 18 SC Freiburg (A)

  • 25 FC Schalke 04 (H)

May

  • 02 Hamburger SV (H)

  • 09 VfB Stuttgart (A)

  • 16 1. FC Köln (H)

  • 23 Bayern Munich (A)

Crucial Schedule Stretch:

If they will be up for the battle to avoid the drop, they should keep their nerves in their final four matches, which will see them going on trips to Hamburg and Stuttgart – both fight relegation last season – before welcoming new boys Köln and finishing off the season at the Allianz Arena. With the exception of Borussia Dortmund, they don’t have to meet any of the top four teams until November, which might help them to build some confidence under the new manager. For now, all Mainz fans can hope for is the exits from the cup tournaments will be a blessing in disguise to focus on their league form, and Kasper Hjulmand will follow suit of Jürgen Klopp and Thomas Tuchel.

 

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Eskender born and raised in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Despite the geographical difference, he is interested in every detail of German football. He breathes football to the point that he gets pleasure from nutmegging his innocent kid. You can also follow him on Twitter @eskeBMG

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